Apple’s iCloud offers one of the most flawless clouding solutions for Apple users. While it is usually used with Apple devices and applications, it can be accessed easily through non-apple browsers and computers too. iCloud Drive is itself the synching aspect or feature of iCloud which offers a myriad of cloud related series. Files automatically sync to any or all devices signed in to your account, including iOS devices, Macs, and Windows PCs, but not Androids. iCloud Drive enables you to create folders for your files and provides online storage for Apple’s productivity apps, including Pages, Numbers, and Keynote.
iCloud Drive is Apple-slick when it involves design, but it’s less capable than the competition from Google Drive and Microsoft OneDrive, both of which come from tech giants that are adept at processing data and dispensing data-related solutions to the users.
If you’re innately an Apple user and rely on Apple devices and office productivity apps to run your life, then iCloud is undoubtedly the best option for you. Due to the seamless Apple experience, it is immersed with all of the different Apple-supported platforms. Being integrated into the Apple’s holistic ecosystem, it connects all kinds of Apple devices, from Mac computers to iPhones and Apple watches, under the same ecosystem. While it works modestly on Windows UI, it does not function well with the Android devices or Google operated systems. For that, it is better if you opt for Google Drive or Microsoft OneDrive.
iCloud Pricing and Plans
With an Apple devices, Apple iCloud offers 5 GB of free initial storage to all users. However, if you are not an Apple user, you just get a meagre 1 GB of free space. All synced photos and videos get uploaded on this storage so even the 5 GB of initial storage runs up really fast. After you’ve utilized up the space, you simply ought to pay monthly charges for additional space. On the bright side, you can share that space with other family individuals through the Family Sharing scheme that Apple has in place for its major provisions.
In case you still require more space, you can avail the following paid plans: 50GB for $0.99/£0.79 per month, 200GB for $2.99/£2.49 per month, or 2TB for $9.99/£6.99 per month. The monetary plans are still comparable to other cloud services being provided by tech giants like Microsoft and Google. Google’s storage allotment begins at a whopping free 15 GB of initial space, but options and pricing plans get a little tricky since there are a myriad of rules determining what counts as quota and what does not. The exceptions are mostly in your favor. Google-created documents, like Google Docs and Sheets, don’t count toward your space limit, though email attachments (including spam) do. In case you are in need of more room in Google Drive, you can acquire 100GB for $1.99 per month, 200GB for $2.99, or 2TB for $9.99. These plans are evidently similar to what Apple is offering monetarily.
On the other hand, OneDrive, one of Apple iCloud’s main tech competitors, offers 5 GB of free initial storage. On top of that, you have to pay $6.99 per month for 1TB; in fact, this monthly subscription comes equipped with complete Microsoft office 365 access. This is in itself a remarkable offer since it lets you access the highly resourceful Word, Excel, and PowerPoint applications. OneDrive’s family plan, which is priced at $9.99 per month, gives you five accounts, each with their own 1TB of storage and Office 365 separate subscription.
In comparison, Dropbox provides only an initial 2GB of free space. Whereas, Dropbox Pro offers 2TB for $11.99 per month or $99 per year. Sugar-Sync offers much less space, with 250GB costing $9.99 a month. Box shares a generous 10 GB of space right off the bat; however, Box’s paid plan for individual consumers starts at $10 per user per month and comes with only 100 GB of online storage.
Starting with Apple iCloud Drive
Setting up the Apple iCloud Drive is a relatively easier process. The existing version of Apple iCloud Drive requires macOS Catalina or later on Mac, iOS 13, or iPadOS on Apple mobile devices, and Windows 10. Unfortunately, Apple does not come with iCloud Drive support for Android, so it is less of a cross-platform solution than Google Drive and OneDrive.
Setting up iCloud Drive on a Windows PC is as simple as using any other cloud service on Windows PC. You download and install the iCloud panel program which creates folders under your main user folder for iCloud Drive and iCloud Photos. To begin syncing, you create an account or directly sign in with an existing Apple ID. A system tray icon is additionally installed, from which you’ll open the special folders. These use custom icons instead of the standard folder icons. The files or folders you add to the iCloud Drive folder or its subfolders appear on all of your other computers and iOS devices where you’ve got iCloud Drive enabled and signed in to the identical account.
Having said that, iCloud works differently on Mac OS as it does not follow the same installation and setup procedure as other cloud services do. This is mainly because iCloud Drive is imbedded in the standard operating system of Mac OS. A new Mac’s setup walks you through configuring iCloud. Otherwise, to enable it, you need to visit System Preferences. Then select iCloud and register with an Apple ID, then finally select iCloud Drive. Once you’ve done this, an icon shows up in Finder under Favorites, almost like a folder or connected drive. It also can function as a backup, if the Desktop & Documents entry is checked in Preferences.
Once the iCloud Drive is functional on your system, you can simply drag files into this iCloud Drive, create sub-folders, and manage your local documents. If you use Pages, Numbers, or other Apple apps that utilize iCloud Drive for storage, you can access folders for those apps’ documents as well. Other forms of data like Iphone backups also cover up this space.
You can view how much storage you are using from the System Preferences section of iCloud. Move the cursor over any of the color-coded blocks on a storage progress bar, and you would be able to see what’s taking up that space. Within this setting, you can also choose to include or exclude the data associated with various programs installed on your computer, such as TextEdit, Preview, QuickTime Player, and iMovie. Photos are handled separately, under the iCloud umbrella rather than iCloud Drive, although there’s nothing stopping you from uploading images to iCloud Drive, and they still fill up the same storage.
As mentioned within the beginning of the review, iCloud Drive is the file-syncing facility of iCloud service. It is this separation between what’s in the iCloud and what’s in iCloud Drive which is liable to cause some confusion. Photos, Contacts, Notes, and Reminders get saved to iCloud, but data from TextEdit, iMovie, and Mail are in iCloud Drive. It is increasingly difficult to decipher which apps stored their data in iCloud versus iCloud Drive.
Another issue is how quickly the free allotment gets used up, especially if you are syncing your Iphone and Mac together. It doesn’t take long for the system messages to start popping up on phone and computer telling you you’re out of storage, so either upgrade or stop uploading backups. Apple makes it hard for an iOS or Mac user to demur from purchasing a storage plan, especially if you’re an iPhone user who likes to shoot Live Photos.
iCloud Drive on the Web
On the web, iCloud Drive is one icon choice in iCloud.com’s main menu. this is often where you will able to view, download, and upload files that sync with any Apple devices you have got and the other of your iCloud instances—for example, PCs that have the iCloud utility installed or other web browsers accessible through your iCloud.com account.
However, the web interface of iCloud is banal when compared to the seamless interfaces of Google Drive and Microsoft OneDrive, both of which come equipped with search option, drag-and-drop file and folder organization, and right-click context menu options. All of these are absent from the iCloud Drive’s web interface.
The main iCloud web reveals to you separate icons for Mail, Contacts, Calendar, Notes, Reminders, iWork apps, Photos, and iCloud Drive. While iCloud Drive appears to be different and separate from those other apps, all the documents and data that are created with those other apps count against the iCloud Drive’s storage limit.
From the website, you would be able to open your iCloud Drive and see all the files you’re syncing, including those that belong to Apple apps like Keynote. You don’t, however, see files in iCloud Drive for your photos, which appears to be annoying, since they are most likely to use up the storage space. On the other hand, Microsoft OneDrive enables you to see your photos in an folders and Photos view, so you are able to work with them as you would with the other file types; Google Photos does not charge you for additional space for pictures under 16 MP; however, the image files do not show up in Google Drive since Google separated these services back in 2019.
You can download existing files, upload new files, and create new folders. If you want to create new documents from the web, you can, using the web versions of Pages, Numbers, and Keynote. Like Google Drive and OneDrive, iCloud Drive supports drag and drop for adding files from Finder or Windows’ File Explorer.
Unfortunately, Apple Drive does not allow you to play or stream music stored on the cloud through the web interface. This feature is available on other cloud services like iDrive and Dropbox. For music playing, you need to either download the files and play them through existing downloaded application or play them using the bulky iTunes desktop application, which has the ability to access them through the cloud service as well.
One of the major issues that iDrive faces is that there is no formal search ability in the web version of the iCloud Drive app. Out of all the twelve available iCloud web apps, only Mail, Contacts, and Reminders have search boxes. On the contrary, Google and Microsoft offer rather robust search options in the web interfaces of their respective cloud services: Google Drive and Microsoft OneDrive.
Google Drive and OneDrive, Apple’s main cloud storage rivals, offer exceptional file sharing capabilities when it comes to sharing files stored in their clouds with friends or other group members. These services create download or document-viewing links, which in OneDrive’s case can be password-protected or have an expiration date specified. With iCloud Drive, you can also share folders, assigning either view-only or editing options. Sharing with iCloud always requires an Apple ID, which is something not necessarily required by Google Drive and OneDrive. Support programs such as Pages, Numbers, and Keynote productivity apps also allow file sharing and team-collaboration.
iCloud holds its own productivity apps which offer certain collaboration capabilities, just like Google Drive and Microsoft OneDrive. While the stock pages, numbers, and keynotes function really well, they cannot handle collaborative online editing as well as iCloud’s competitors do. For example, there is no revision tracking enabled in the documents being accessed through the iCloud support apps. Furthermore, while live revision is offered on paper, it is not as seamless as the one on Google Drive or OneDrive.
iCloud Drive on iOS Devices
iCloud Drive works best on iOS devices, especially when compared to the smartphone applications of other storage providers. However, users of the other cloud services would most likely find iCloud Drive to be dispensing an unfamiliar or odd user experience. While on iOS devices, the cloud service is more of an invisible layer that is visible to applications that have direct access to cloud’s space, it can be seen in app form in the Files app introduced through iOS11. Through this app, one can preview standard document file types and share them with other installed applications that can open them. Unlike the web version, iCloud Drive on iOS devices can also play the stored music files quite neatly.
It is important to note that iCloud Drive on iOS can finally act as a download target for iOS browsers. This is often enabled by the Files app, and it allows you to download any file type that you discover on the internet such as an .EXE file found on any random website. Through the Save feature of the iCloud, it can be downloaded and saved on the storage for further use.
One unfortunate difference between iCloud and other cloud services is that it does not offer the same level of cross-web integration that other major providers like Dropbox, OneDrive and Google Drive do. Google’s Cloud service and Dropbox are in fact known for being able to integrate with almost all of the web applications available currently.
Since the main purpose of iCloud was to ensure a seamless and integrated cloud experience for apps and data across all Apple devices, the existing service does complement this purpose rather neatly. Apple users who want to enjoy a completely immersive experience can avail iCloud through their respective devices. It is integrated well with the MacOS and iOS systems, allowing the users to store and access data from all types of Apple devices. However, iCloud is also operation through Windows OS. However, iCloud still lacks behind in terms of functionality that is offered by other file-synching and editing cloud services. This holds especially true for elements like folder syncing, use of online productivity apps, and engagement in collaborative scenarios.